How to Find Out What Is on Your Computer


I often help people with computer problems and very frequently it turns out that they know very little about what is actually on their computer. If you want to know things such as how much RAM you have, what hardware and software are installed, and many other interesting details about your PC, you can use a built-in Windows utility called System Information. Here is how to access it.

Windows XP

On most XP systems System Information can be found in Start-All Programs-Accessories-System Tools. Another route is:

1.    Open the Start menu
2.    Click “Run”
3.    Enter “msinfo32" (without quotes)
4.    Click “OK”

Windows Vista/7/8/8.1/10

1.    Use the keyboard shortcut Winkey+R to open the Run box
2.    Enter “msinfo32” (without quotes)  in the Run box

Open System Information from the command line

Another way to access this utility is to open the command line and enter "start msinfo32" (without quotes). This works in Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8.x,10.

How to use System Information

System Information opens in a two-pane view. The left pane contains the entries “System Summary”, “Hardware Resources”, “Components”, and “Software Environment”. To see the details of any category except “System Summary”, click the + by its name to expand the list and then click a desired sub-category. The right pane will show the details.

System information freeware

There are also a number of free programs that provide considerably more details than the built-in application System Information.  Such helpful additional information as license keys for software are given.

My own favorite is Belarc Advisor, which works on all current Windows versions, both 32-bit and 64-bit. However, when I installed it on Windows 7, I did get the message, “This software may not have installed correctly”, but there was not actually any problem.

I have also used System Information for Windows, which comes in a portable version. It works on Windows XP on up. Added later: the installer for this software is now being bundled with Open Candy. See Gizmo's article about Open Candy.

Go to the link Best Free System Information Utility for more details on this type of application.

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This tips section is maintained by Vic Laurie. Vic runs a Windows blog called The PC Informant and also operates a computer education website.

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